Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Thursday 23 Apr 2020

1. Study of 20,000 families to gather Covid-19 data

The UK government is coordinating a major study of 20,000 households in England in an attempt to learn more about the Covid-19 coronavirus – in particular, how it spreads and how long immunity lasts. Volunteers will provide nose and throat swabs on a regular basis for at least 12 months to check whether they are infected.

2. Social distancing ‘will continue until 2021’

The UK’s chief medical officer has warned that it would be “wholly unrealistic” to expect life in locked-down Britain to return to normal this summer. Speaking yesterday at the government’s daily Covid-19 briefing, Chris Whitty said that some social distancing measures would have to remain in place until at least the end of this year as a vaccine is sought.

3. Schools ‘could not reopen before 1 June’

The leader of a head teachers’ union has said that the earliest “realistic” point at which schools in England could start reopening would be 1 June. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), told the BBC that planning would need “to begin very soon” to hit even that target. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has also quashed speculation about an imminent return to classrooms, saying at the weekend that no date had been set.

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Coronavirus social distancing to last for ‘next calendar year’

4. Zoom meetings hijacked to screen child abuse footage

At least three Zoom video conferencing meetings have been used by infiltrators to show child abuse videos to unsuspecting participants in recent days, the BBC reports. A legal education seminar on Tuesday was overtaken with “incredibly distressing” footage, participants said. California-based tech company Zoom says it has boosted security and is investigating the breaches.

Houseparty and Zoom: how safe are the video calling apps?

5. Senior Tories warn of economic cost of lockdown

Senior backbench Conservative MPs are warning the government that its “safety first” approach to tackling the coronavirus outbreak risks wrecking the UK economy, according to The Times. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the influential 1922 Committee, has reportedly urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to begin lifting social distancing restrictions within three weeks.

What are the arguments to end the coronavirus lockdown?

6. Iran ‘launches satellite’ as Trump threatens navy

Iran yesterday claimed it had put its first military satellite into orbit, as US President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he had ordered the US navy to “to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea”. Trump issued his warning following an incident in which nearly a dozen small Iranian boats steered within a few yards of US warships.

Are US-Iran tensions flaring again?

7. Shoppers panic as imitation guns fired

A 33-year-old record company owner was arrested in the Kent town of Chatham yesterday after allegedly terrifying people at a nearby shopping centre by firing imitation firearms from the balcony of his penthouse apartment. Michael Alunomoh live-streamed footage of himself shouting taunting messages to armed police who were called in response to reports of around 50 shots being fired.

8. Baby born in car park after ‘cheering’ mix-up

A father was forced to help his wife give birth in a supermarket car park in Southampton on Saturday after a passing ambulance crew mistook his efforts to wave them down as supportive cheering and failed to stop, it has emerged. Hannah and Andy Howells say their newborn son Wilf is doing well and thanked the 999 call handler who talked them through his birth on the phone.

9. EuroMillions winner celebrates at safe distance

A 38-year-old joiner from Rochdale has been named as the winner of a £58m EuroMillions jackpot - and has told how he celebrated by having a beer at a safe two-metre distance from his brothers. Ryan Hoyle says he couldn’t believe his luck after realising he had won Friday’s draw and drove to his parents’ house, where he passed his phone through the window for them to double-check his numbers.

10. Coronavirus: behind the Chinese laboratory theory

The World Health Organization (WHO) has denied a growing number of allegations that the new coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory.

WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib said that “it is probable, likely, that the virus is of animal origin”. The comment followed Donald Trump’s confirmation that his administration is investigating whether the new virus originated in a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan. So is it fact or fiction?

Coronavirus: behind the Chinese laboratory theory

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